The Anxieties of Being a Black Poet in Britain

An interesting insight into his experiences as a poet from Poet Kei Miller….

Under the Saltire Flag

photograph by Marlon James photograph by Marlon James

1.

Some years ago, after a reading in Ireland, a major British poet wrote about me in a disparaging way on his own blog. He accused me of playing the ‘race card’. I had read from a sequence of poems called ‘In This Country’. The poems explore a range of feelings a black Caribbean body might feel living in the UK for the first time – the unfamiliarity of the cold; the profound familiarity of spaces such as Brixton or Moss Side; the harsh acceptance that for all the loneliness of Britain it might indeed be a better space than the one that was left behind; the subtle and unsubtle experiences of racism. It was this last category that upset the major poet. To put it crudely, he thought I was being an ungrateful immigrant. Perhaps he dismissed me as yet another black poet who had…

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